Manufacturing better education

May 12th, 2013

News Coverage:

Manufacturing better education

Program shows teachers skills sought by industry

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2013 12:00 am

By Matt Getts

AVILLA — Getting a good job without going to college first? Yes, it can happen.

According to senior management at Group Dekko’s plant in Avilla, between 80 and 90 percent of all managers and supervisors at the plant started working there immediately after high school.

One Dekko employee who started fresh out of high school eventually received his bachelor’s degree, an education that was paid for by the company.

Tina Luttman of Kendallville started her career at Group Dekko as a machine operator in a company plant. She now is a human resources generalist.

“I worked my way up through the company,” Luttman said. “(Young workers) do have that kind of opportunity here.”

Thirteen educators from the East Noble school district and one from the West Noble district participated in a day-long externship program Wednesday organized by the Noble County Economic Development Corp. They had question-and-answer sessions with company managers and tours of manufacturing facilities at Group Dekko in Avilla and Courier Corp. in Kendallville.

The Dekko portion of the day concluded with a Mega Block building activity organized by Garrett Group Dekko office manager Shawnna Dillinger. It demonstrated the value of team building, organization and problem solving. The teachers were given copies of written instructions that could be taken back to their classrooms.

At Courier, teachers were given a comprehensive job description for one of the positions that stressed the skills needed to perform the job well.

“I wanted to find a way to introduce educators to the manufacturing industry,” said Rick Sherck, Noble County Economic Development Corp. executive director.

It’s Sherck’s job to attract industry to Noble County. Part of attracting industry is showing there is a skilled work force available.

Training those skilled workers can happen through vocational programs, through colleges and from high school curriculum. Giving educators firsthand experience at the type of skills employers are looking for was a big purpose behind Wednesday’s effort, Sherck said.

It’s a goal shared by the companies themselves.

“We want to make sure we are preparing the next local generation to be prepared for manufacturing,” said Raj Wadhwa, Dekko’s Avilla plant manger. “I want talent to come from the local community. I don’t want to have to go outside for talent.”

And what kind of skills are being sought at Dekko and Courier?

Luttman and Tracy Tipton, who works in human resources for Courier, both said developing good attendance habits is very important.

“They need to get it together,” Luttman said. “They need to come to school every day, so one day they’ll go to work every day.”

Aside from good attendance, Wadhwa and Tipton said math skills and the ability to accurately measure lengths are helpful in a variety of jobs in their factories. Communication is also an important skill entry-level workers should have.

It was a message well received, according to East Noble guidance counselor Lindy Munson.

“It was a great opportunity to connect with the work force,” Munson said. “I’m preparing them for life. You’re going to have to develop these work habits.”

Mike Smith is a business teacher at East Noble High School and his department’s career pathways coordinator. Smith said it was helpful to see the real world some of his students will be joining one day.

“Just to see some of it was educational for me,” Smith said. “I thought it was very informative.”

Both Courier and Group Dekko encourage innovative ideas from their workers and reward them for such. The potential for advancement at both companies is high, depending on how driven the worker is to move up the company ladder.

“People are only limited by their ambitions,” Tipton said.

“You have to show you want more,” Luttman said. “Show them that’s what you want.”